The former capital of Omani Empire, Stone Town was the base from which the earliest trading caravans weaved their way to the Congo in search of ivory and slaves. It was also the place where explorers like Livingstone and Stanley planned their journeys, which later led to colonization of East Africa. Recently declared a UNESCO world heritage site, Stone Town has a wealth of historical and beautiful buildings that visitors can spend days exploring. The city sites exhibit a blend of Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures. Arrange a walking tour with a local guide who can lead you through the winding alleyways to the House of wonders, the Arab Fort, the Slave Market and African House.
TAKE A SPICE TOUR
A key point along the Arab-Indian trade route for centuries, Zanzibar is anonymous with spice production to this day. Most famously, saffron, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg are harvested in abundance on the island. Plenty of agents and companies offer spice tour, during which you will spend about two hours on a plantation learning how various spices and fruits are grown. Bonuses: a) you get to sample everything b) your guide will amaze you by scampering all the way p to the top of a coconut tree and back. C) You will leave with a crown or a ring or a purse made out of leaves by which to remember the experience.
EXPLORE ZANZIBAR’S WILDLIFE
Visit Jozani – Chwaka Bay National Park, which is home to the nearly extinct, endemic Red Colobus Monkeys. The Monkeys keep visitors entertained for hours with their striking resemblance to humans, they laugh, show off, and sometimes even pose for pictures. Forest tours are available in Jozani park with knowledgeable guides who can describe the array of plants and animals that inhabit the various types of vegetation, including mahogany and mangrove trees among others. Next door to Jozani , you can check out the Zanzibar Butterfly center, a community development project that host tourists to help raise revenue for local farmers who harvest numerous spices of butterflies in the center’s lovely tropical garden. Also of interest to some crowds is ZALA Park, which showcases the island’s reptiles, including crocodiles, turtles and snakes. The Kiwengwa Pongwe Forest reserve in a great place to explore original indigenous forests and deep caves.
ZANZIBAR FROM THE SKY
While breathing when seen on the ground level, Zanzibar is perhaps even more awe-inspiring when seen from above. Take a ride in a hot air balloon and float away for a while – you might spot dhows sailing into the harbor or pods of dolphins arcing through the waves.
COOK YOUR OWN SWAHILI FOOD
An extensive history of fruit and spice cultivation and centuries of cultural diffusion through trade and tourism have resulted in a unique Zanzibar cuisine. Ask you guide for opportunities to take a Swahili cooking course. Then go buy ingredients in the massive, bustling open- air market place, which offer a wealthy of culinary treasures at extremely reasonable prices. You can find various types of bananas, “elephant garlic”, and giant mangoes, coconuts, and avocados and many other fruits, vegetables and spices you’ve probably never seen anywhere else. (Hint: Also check out the market for rich textiles, hand made jewelries, and intricate wood and stone carvings to bring home to family and friends.)
SWIM, SNORKEL, SCUBA-DIVE, SURF & RELAX
Take advantage of the Indian Ocean waters to cool off and experience Zanzibar’s marine life. The northern and eastern beaches are popular among travelers for all types of water related activities, and both locations offer affordable overnight accommodation. Pristine coral reef, home to brightly colored fish, turtles, dolphins and dense masses of various corals, are to be found at Mnemba Island on the northeast coast. For shorter day trips out of Stone Town, you can rent equipment and hire a dhow to take you to Safari Blue or Prison Island. The Breezes Beach Resort on the southern tip of the Island also offers the opportunity to swim with dolphins through the Kizimkazi Dolphin Tour. Kite surfing is increasing in popularity along Zanzibar’s east coast, where towns such as Paje, Jambiani, and Nungwi are host to several kite –surfing schools such as Haraka kite and Airborne. Kite surfing can be done year round, but the return of the winds after the rainy season (December to April) can provide a particularly thrilling experience or, simply lie back on the brilliantly white sand and let the rhythm of the steady ocean waves lull you to sleep.
DINE AT FORODHANI GARDENS
Ranging from crab, claws, lobster and calamari steaks to various types of pizza, sambusas and chips, the food at the out door stalls in Forodhani is both delicious and cheap. Wash down your second or third helpings with sugar cane juice, which vendors make by hand as you watch. For dessert, try the incredible banana and chocolate pancakes. Then sip some coconut milk, tangawizi soda or spiced chai as you sit on the harbor’s edge and look out over the water.
Indulge yourself in a luxurious treatment at one of Zanzibar’s many spas. Lemon Spa is popular with tourists and has several locations across the island offering facials, manicures & pedicures, and massages. Mrembo Spa is in Stone Town also has a good reputation and is known for incorporating local plants and herbs into treatments.
PARTY ON THE BEACH
The Northern beach towns of Kendwa and Nungwi offer biggest part scenes, with plenty of bars along the beach so you can dance the night away under the stars. Keep an eye out for the full moon party, held in Kendwa on Saturdays just before or after a full moon, which attracts a large gathering of tourists and locals looking to have a good time.